Reebok Launches Online Crime-Caper Campaign

Reebok International will roll out a multimedia ad campaign next week that leans heavily on the Internet, following up on the shoe and apparel company’s successful Terry Tate campaign.

In the new push, called “Reebok’s Whodunit?,” four National Basketball Association players — Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Kenyon Martin and Jason Richardson — star in a crime mystery. The crime: a killer crossover dribble has overwhelmed an unwitting victim on an urban playground. Reebok investigators suspect an “Above the Rim” player was responsible. The campaign, set up by TV spots, encourages participation in the investigation at a Reebok Web site.

Omnicom’s Arnell Group designed the campaign, with the interactive handled by Los Angeles-based agency Zugara. It will support the launch of a new line of sneakers by Reebok’s Rbk, the Canton, Mass., company’s hip-hop-infused line, designed to steal market share from Nike in the high-priced sneaker category.

“The ‘Whodunit’ campaign is a great way for Reebok to directly involve and engage consumers in our brand, as well as drive traffic to retailers and our Web site,” said Mickey Pant, Reebok’s chief marketing officer.

“Whodunit” kicks off on June 24, when Reebok will air its first TV spot during the BET awards. Additional commercials are planned to begin running on July 9 on MTV, ESPN, Fox and UPN. A second round of TV commercials are slated for July 23. Print ads will run in ESPN The Magazine, Slam, Vibe, XXL, Complex, King, and Dime. All ads will encourage consumers to visit Reebok’s “Whodunit?” Web site.

At the site, visitors can become investigators, touring the crime scene and finding out more about the suspects. They can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts for future clues. Those cracking the case will be entered in a sweepstakes for a trip to the 2004 NBA All-Star Game in Denver.

The campaign is backed up by in-store appearances by the four athletes. Conspicuously absent from the group is Reebok’s top star, Allen Iverson, who has been at the center of a number of real-life criminal investigations.

Reebok has gathered some success with its earlier campaigns that have leaned on the Internet. Its “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker” commercial, also done by Arnell, pointed viewers to the Web for weekly installments of Tate, a Lawrence Taylor clone wreaking havoc on rude coworkers at a buttoned-up office.

The company reported that users downloaded millions of Terry Tate vignettes and visits to its online store quadrupled. However, the Tate spot lacked one thing: Reebok and its “vector” logo were mostly absent.

The new campaign takes a more traditional branding approach, backing up Reebok’s push to differentiate itself from sneaker giant Nike by painting itself as the footwear with street credibility. Along these lines, Reebok has sought to capture the nexus of basketball and hip-hop by signing up rap stars Jay-Z and 50 Cent.

Reebok hopes to ease Nike’s stranglehold on the $15.7 billion sports footwear market. Nike’s 40 percent share of the market is nearly triple Reebok’s. Nike also recently won the battle for Lebron James, who most think will be the NBA’s next mega-star, signing him to a $100 million endorsement deal.

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